Daunting task lies ahead for health staff

With one person testing positive for Omicron variant, officials are working round the clock to identify contacts

Images of the havoc that the second wave of the pandemic caused across the country are still fresh in people’s minds. In Prakasam district, the viral disease touched a peak of 2,000 cases in May 2021.

But thanks to relentless efforts of the health professionals, the number of fresh cases came down to less than 100 by September-end and to 50 in October and to a single digit in December.

Even in the last 24 hours ending 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the district reported only three COVID-19 cases, according to a health bulletin released by the State government. The recovery rate improved to 99.16% with over 1.37 lakh persons recovering from the illness.

But now, the new Omicron variant, which is reported to be highly transmissible, threatens to undo the efforts made by the health staff so far in containing the spread. To check the spread of the new variant in the district, officials have adopted a multi-pronged strategy to identify all those with foreign travel, subject them to testing and put them in home quarantine.

With one person who had returned from South Africa testing positive for Omicron variant, the health staff took cluster containment activities in full vigour in the Cloughpet area in the city. Fortunately, 150 primary and secondary contacts of the person had tested negative.

In all, 11 persons with recent foreign travel history had tested positive, according to health officials here. The results from the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, showed that three of them tested negative for Omicron variant. The genome sequencing results of eight other foreign returnees are still awaited, health officials added.

‘1,500 foreign returnees in the district’

As many as 30 staff are now working round-the-clock to identify all the foreign returnees and restrict them to their homes for 14 days. “We have so far identified 1,500 persons in the district with foreign travel history,” COVID Management Centre head B.Thirumala Rao said. Many of them had tested negative on their arrival. Health staff had difficulty in spotting all the foreign returnees as they camped in Hyderabad or other places without returning to the addresses mentioned in their passports, he added.

The district administration has appealed to foreign returnees to voluntarily undergo COVID test and not to move out of their homes for a fortnight, he said.

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